Born and raised in Mexico City, Hualani’s Executive Chef Jaret Tellez is no stranger to the concept of food as an expression of love. To this day, his mother and grandmother still influence and inspire his cooking. He earned a culinary degree and went on to work in kitchens all over the world, from the Florida Keys to Abu Dhabi. That’s where he met Chef Luis Pous and then followed him to Kauai where the duo collaborate on organic, locally-sourced creations inspired by the Farm at Hokuala.
It just so happens Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday this year, the same day as Timbers Kauai’s weekly farm-to-table dinner. We caught up with Chef Jafet to talk about the inspiration behind this special menu and how food can be the perfect expression of love.
What are the biggest influences in your cooking?
When I lived in the Middle East for three years, I met a lot of great people from Asia and had the opportunity to travel to Japan and Thailand, so I have this Asian influence in me because of my travels. I always say my three biggest influences are my mother, my Grandmother, and Chef Luis.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I don’t have any one specialty. Our farm is unbelievable, so we always start with all this amazing fresh produce we have. We are on an island, so we can also get super fresh fish anytime, like ahi, opa, and swordfish. Our food is inspired by the lifestyle on Kauai— everything we do is as natural as possible and very healthy. This island is so pristine, and our food reflects that.
What inspires you when you are creating new dishes?
We like to come up with new ways to do things, to transform super classic dishes into something that is Hawaiian but maybe also Latin, Hawaiian or Asian. We like to play.